Back from France

Posted by Pierre Igot in: French Stuff, Macintosh, Society
May 13th, 2007 • 11:01 am

If you are wondering why Betalogue hasn’t been updated for so long—and I won’t hold it against you if you aren’t—it was because I was on vacation in France for three weeks.

One week in Paris in a rented flat, and then two weeks in Alsace with family and friends. (I was born and grew up in Strasbourg.)

The weather was terrific—especially compared to Nova Scotia, where the spring season has just barely started now. In fact, the conditions were almost summer-like for most of our stay. The food and wine were great as usual, and the constant buzz of activity of a big city like Paris was a great change of scenery for us—although of course after a couple of weeks we did start to long for the peace and quiet of our home in southwest Nova Scotia.

Many people live in the city and go to a more rural environment for their vacation. We live our regular lives in a rural environment, so we go to the city. All told, I much prefer the latter combination, and going back to France for a few weeks every other year or so does not make me regret the decision to emigrate to rural Nova Scotia at all. City life is great for a few weeks. After that, it becomes a grinding routine with huge amounts of time wasted in daily transportation and the constant assault of noise, stress, pollution, etc.

But of course, it’s just my own view of things. This year, we had the added bonus of landing in France right in the middle of presidential elections. (Although, as citizens with dual citizenship, we could have voted, we didn’t bother to do so, mainly because we felt that it was morally wrong for us to try and influence the future of a society that we are no longer part of.) It was an interesting time to say the least, and if I was living and working in France right now I would be rather worried about the future of my country under the rule of someone like Nicolas Sarkozy. But I guess that, like any other democratically elected leader, he deserves the benefit of the doubt from those who didn’t vote for him and didn’t want him there.

Still, whenever I hear him speak, I cannot help but think that, had he lived in France during the Second World War, he would most probably have been a collaborationist and a collaborator. It’s a pretty strong accusation, but there’s just something very creepy about the guy. (And I am not just talking about his physical appearance.) I am very doubtful that he will be good for the country and for the world as a whole. But then, maybe France does need a few years under the rule of someone like him to realize what they really do not want.

I must admit that what shocked me most during that presidential campaign was the outrageous amount of time and energy devoted by the mainstream media (especially the main French TV channels) to totally irrelevant and pointless aspects of the campaign. During the countdown to the announcement of the official results (on May 6 at 8:00 pm), for example, on the two most-watched TV channels, we got the most absurd coverage of the candidates’ cars going from point A to point B in downtown Paris and trying to make their way through hordes of… so-called journalists.

Apparently, this is what the French now call the “people-isation” (no translation required!) of French politics, and it seems to have completely taken over. It was almost like watching a completely pointless reality TV series—at least that is what I figure it must be like, since I never watch that stuff. I personally found it profoundly absurd and revolting, but obviously there must be a big audience for it. It certainly seems to have eclipsed any kind of real debate about fundamental issues. But I still find it hard to believe that the “journalists” involved here—many of whom have many years of experience in French politics, since they were already around when I lived in France, 20 years ago—do not feel any shame about how low they have fallen.

Apart from that, we really did enjoy our stay. From a Mac/Apple perspective, there isn’t much to report, except that we finally managed to convince my mum to ditch her old Windows PC and buy a brand new 20-inch iMac. My dad had already switched from a PC to a Mac a few years ago, but my mum was still using this old, noisy, slow PC running Windows XP, with a failing CRT monitor and all kinds of virus-related problems… She switched from film to digital photography a couple of years ago, and she was really suffering with the sub-par hardware and software.

I finally went with her to the local FNAC and got a 20-inch iMac for her, without any help from the typically useless FNAC salesperson. I set it up for her in her office and managed to transfer her old Outlook Express e-mails and her collection of digital photographs. She was amazed at how much better her pictures looked on her new machine. I suspect that, over time, she’ll be even more amazed at how fast, smoothly and silently her new machine works, with no viruses to worry about and no Microsoft OS absurdity to contend with.

And that was pretty much the extent of my Mac-related activities while in France. We still travelled with our own cranky six-year-old PowerBook G4 (Titanium) with the missing “8” key (it no longer stays in place), the unresponsive space bar, and the toothpick holding the broken RAM slot in place. But the machine is really too slow to run Tiger properly, and I promised my wife that we would get her a new one once we were back home—i.e. now.

After our less-than-convincing experience with the mooing MacBook last year, it looks like it’s going to be a 17″ MacBook Pro. I don’t see any signs of a major hardware revamp at Apple and, besides, I don’t think we would try the “early adopter” thing again. Once bitten…

It’s back to work tomorrow morning, and there’s already a list of things to take care of…


5 Responses to “Back from France”

  1. iLux says:

    About Nicolas Sarkozy : the only French president who was an actively know collaborator was François Mitterand. I don’t like him too, but I guess that accusation was a little too…I don’t know…

    About the media : nothing to say. The coverage of the campaign’d have been hilarious if it wasn’t that serious.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    I know my accusation is a bit harsh, but it’s just my way of saying I find him very creepy. I guess that ultimately we’ll have to judge him on what he does during his term. But he’s been around for a while, in positions of significant power, and his lack of respect for the working class and use of the immigration card for political purposes are rather sickening.

    I seriously doubt that he’ll achieve even half of what he says he wants to do, simply because he’s such a divisive figure that I don’t see how he can get the support that he would need for that. You don’t fix unemployment by accusing unemployed people of cheating the system.

    It’s this “us vs. them” attitude that makes me feel that he would have been on the wrong side in the context of a conflict such as World War II. But of course I’ll never be able to prove this… It’s just a gut feeling.

  3. jking says:

    I don’t generally pay attention to foreign politics, and I am only vaguely acquainted with the nodern French systems of politics and governance, but your account certainly does make me believe that journalistic atrophy is, if not a global problem, at least one that plagues many mature democratic states. The complete lack of professionalism evidenced on RDI, some parts of CBC and especially CTV both depresses me and completely frightens me—not to mention what I see on the few snatches of American broadcasts I see. I’m glad I at least reside in a province where we have real political debate; the political climate in Quebec is downright backward—and good luck getting French-language news (and especially debate) from any other province in any meaningful amount from Radio-Canada. :(

    As far as political coverage focusing progressively more on personalities, I’m hoping we will ultimately avoid plunging head-long into that sort of thing, much as our bankrupt journalists may try. Since the head of government is not directly elected, political debate will hopefully continue to revolve more or less around policy. I hope, anyway. :)

  4. ssp says:

    Don’t you think there should be new MacBook Pros soon? They seem so overdue. And I keep telling my dad to not buy a new computer just yet as I thought the should be out by summer.

    I might be able to get you a (white, iBook) 8 key if you still need one. At least that’s how I solved the problem of a key or two on my TiBook going astray.

    And yup, that Sarkozy thing looks a bit creepy :/

  5. Pierre Igot says:

    jking: I get my French-language news from France via TV5. :-) Québécois TV is unwatchable as far as I am concerned… More generally, I really do not watch much “journalistic” TV anymore. It is indeed very depressing, and quite puzzling. It’s almost as if pictures and thought are incompatible. There are exceptions, but they are few and far between. What frightens me is that so many people rely only on TV for “serious” news. It does make you wonder where democracy is heading… (In case this isn’t clear, I am not talking about deliberate manipulation, of course—only the mind-numbing uselessness of most TV reporting. Every time I see a news report on TV, I have dozens of important questions that are simply left unanswered. Journalism should be so much more than just showing pictures of people and stuff. Yet, that’s what most TV “journalists” seem to be doing.

    ssp: There will probably be new laptops soon. Maybe the rumoured “subnotebook.” But I don’t anticipate major changes that will suddenly make the current laptops obsolete. And like I said, we definitely do not want to be early adopters this time anyway. It is much more important to us to have a machine that operates quietly and reliably. Based on my experience setting up a couple of MacBook Pros for other people and on what I have read online, the 17″ MacBook Pro looks like the surest bet at this point in time. Thanks for the offer for the “8″ key, but the problem is more serious: The space bar is really becoming unusable, and the whole keyboard would need to be replaced.

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